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  6. Shapps urges block on 'Legoland' housing design

Shapps urges block on 'Legoland' housing design

Housing minister Grant Shapps has urged architects and house builders to make sure new developments reflect the identity of the local area.

The minister has written to the Design Council, recently merged with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, to encourage the organisation to help developers work with local communities to bring forward creative and innovative designs that respond to local character and identity.

He has specifically asked the Design Council to consider how communities could use the new neighbourhood plans to support those developers whose designs and use of materials are more sensitive to the aesthetic of the local area without adding to the regulatory burden on the industry.

In his letter to the Design Council, Shapps said England's suburbs were dominated by "identikit" homes that could be anywhere in the country. Instead, developers should take the character of the local neighbourhood more into account in their designs, he insisted.

He highlighted examples of housing developments which demonstrated use of local materials and were sensitive to local views.

Port Sunlight at Wirral on Merseyside was highlighted as a good example of “vernacular” development.

The minister said: "We all recognise the bog standard, identikit Legoland homes that typify some new developments - all looking exactly the same on streets that could be anywhere in the country. Too often new developments are dominated by the same, identikit designs that bear no resemblance to the character of the local area.

"I want more developers to think outside these Legoland designs and consider how the expertise, knowledge and materials that are locally available could be best used to reflect the identity of their surrounding neighbourhood."

He argued that neighbourhood plans, designed and voted on by communities themselves, could offer vital support to those architects and developers who are “more sensitive to the look and feel of the place in which they are building”.


Roger Milne

10 March 2010